Friday, April 2, 2010

Jimmy Smith - The Sermon (1959)

Hailing from Norristown, PA, Jimmy Smith was the man who single-handedly ushered in the rise of the Hammond B-3 organ, as well as the era of "soul jazz", re-defining what a trio could be. He earned his chops playing piano in clubs in and around Philly during the '40s and '50s, until one day when he bought his trademark instrument, holed himself up in a warehouse for a whole year, only to emerge in the mid-1950s displaying complete mastery of his organ.

His usual trios consisted of organ, guitar and drums; which was unheard of at the time. But due to significant advances in electronics and amplification, the guitar no longer had to be a background instrument, used only for rhythm. It's been said that Smith did as much for the guitar in jazz music as both Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, without ever actually playing one.

1959's The Sermon is a landmark album in that it features a 20+ minute track when Blue Note Records label head Alfred Lion demanded that no tracks be longer than 12:00. It's also a huge landmark album because of the line-up: Lee Morgan (trumpet), Lou Donaldson (alto sax on "The Sermon"), Tina Brooks (tenor sax on "The Sermon"), Kenny Burrell (guitar on "The Sermon" and "Flamingo"), Art Blakey (drums on "The Sermon" and "Flamingo"), George Coleman (alto sax on "J.O.S."), Eddie McFadden (guitar on "J.O.S.") and Donald Bailey (drums on "J.O.S.").


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